Too often when we read about ‘management,’ the focus is on the behaviour of individual managers. Management is about much more than that.

As an employee, whilst you might have a good or bad relationship with your line manager, you probably also feel ‘managed’ by the organisation. Managed by the particular processes and practices (let’s call it ‘the system’) chosen to control you, your work and the resources you use. This system helps the entire team deliver results, influences everyone’s behaviour and has a significant impact on the culture of the business.

It’s also what people tend to mean when they talk about ‘the company,’ not a specific individual or group of individuals, but the system itself. How do you ensure that the system you’ve got in place is the right one? There are 3 things to attend to:

1. Does your system reflect your values?

If you want to embed your values in the work of your team, start with the system. Does it reflect your values, or is it simply the best way you know to run a business? 

Embedding organisational values in the way you do business can be a challenge. Some employers develop values into a set of organisational behaviours that people must abide by, others stick them on the wall and hope everyone will take notice. But how many of us think about values when we’re creating a new expenses process, or a working from home policy?

2. Does your system give you competitive advantage?

It’s really tempting to be inspired by case studies of other organisations and to copy and paste part of their system into your own. Who hasn’t at least contemplated giving people unlimited holiday after the publicity around Netflix and Virgin doing the same? The possibility of being as successful as those companies adds to the attraction of course. No one wants to copy an unsuccessful business.

Cutting and pasting practices from other organisations is unlikely to deliver results. The people in your team are unique, the way they work together is unique, and the way they deliver as a result of all that is unique. Optimise your system by ensuring that it’s aligned to what you’re trying to deliver (and your values). And create something unique that makes you competitive and inimitable. 

 3. Does your system deliver all it could?

What are you trying to achieve through the way your organisation manages people? Is it about cost reduction and effective delivery, or innovation and customer focus?

Do you want people to comply or challenge? If you’re not clear on the outcomes you’re looking for, it’s extremely difficult to create a system that will deliver them.

Once you’re clear on your desired outcomes, design thinking that can help you to find the right practices and processes to create a unique, value-aligned system that ensures you achieve them. Fully involving your team in these discussions is highly recommended. It will bring new perspectives to the table, smooth the implementation process and develop everyone’s understanding of (and trust in) your intentions.

Let’s stop focusing on the behaviour of individual managers and take a look at what more we can achieve by changing the context they’re working in.